Why does sleep matter?

20 Dec 2017

Sleep takes up more than a third of our day but we understand very little about what it does for us.

Sleep is the single most important neurobehavioural experience in our lives. The average person spends more than a third of their life asleep, and a lot happens while we sleep. While scientists do not yet fully understand all of the reasons why we sleep, many important things happen during sleep. Sleep is an active restorative state, and the body’s chance to repair and replace all of the molecules used up during the day. In addition, sleep plays vital roles in immune function, and also in helping to consolidate memories and tasks that have been learned throughout the day.

What we do at Turning Point

Turning Point is actively involved in research, treatment, and education around sleep issues. This is important given that many commonly used drugs such as alcohol, caffeine, cannabis, and prescription medications affect sleep. Some current research projects which have a focus on sleep include:

  • Understanding how sleep changes during detox and withdrawal. Poor sleep is a major concern in many of our clients, and by better understanding which components of sleep are disturbed, we hope to aid their recovery.

  • Examining how drug use in adolescence affects sleep-both in the here and now, as well as longer term problems with sleep

  • Understanding barrier’s to a good night’s sleep in hospital setting. We know how important sleep is when one is recovering, though many things interrupt sleep in hospitals. By understanding these we hope to promote faster recovery for those in hospital, and reduce future re-admissions.

  • Shift, work and play! We live in a world that operates 24/7. More than 20% of our workforce are shift workers, who often struggle with not only sleep, but also other healthy behaviours such as diet and exercise. We are actively engaged in understanding how shift workers cope with their schedules, including their use of drugs and how this impacts on their health and productivity at work.

Sleep is important. But for many of us we don’t give it a second thought or we prioritise other things over sleep. Turning Point researchers have developed this infographic that describes some of the ways in which you can maximise the amount of good quality sleep you get. You can tailor the infographic to your own needs by writing or drawing things that may be affecting your sleep, and by nominating ways to improve your sleep.

What is needed / Next Steps

We are passionate about understanding and learning more about sleep, particularly in how different drugs affect sleep, and how people use alcohol and other drugs to help them to sleep, or to help them remain alert.

Our next workshop, for those in the AoD or mental health sectors who want to learn more about sleep is scheduled for:

Workshop # 09 - Tuesday 13 November 2018
Sleep and substance use: effects, assessment and intervention.
Presenters: Rowan Ogeil, Damon Ashworth and Vanessa Smithies